Sixteen per cent of students in Karachi's girls schools smoke, a habit that annually causes some 100,000 deaths in Pakistan, says a leading health official.
"According to recent research, smoking in girls schools of Karachi has risen to 16 per cent," The News on Wednesday quoted Nadeem Rizvi, head of the chest diseases department at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College and president of the Pakistan Chest Society, as saying.
"Women are a major target of opportunity for the tobacco industry, which needs to recruit new users to replace the nearly half of current users who will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases," he maintained.
Pointing to the harmful effects of tobacco marketing that is targeted towards women and girls, he demanded a ban on all forms of direct or indirect marketing of tobacco products.
Javaid Khan, the head of the chest diseases section at the Aga Khan University Hospital and a member of the National Alliance for Tobacco Control, said that doctors are morally bound to educate the public on the harmful effects of using tobacco products.
"Research shows that even a brief three-minute advice by doctors on quitting smoking brings about significant results," Khan contended.
He said that tobacco use in the form of gutka and pan masala is on the rise, especially among children, resulting in increasing incidents of head, neck and mouth cancers.
"Pakistan currently tops the global list in oral cancer," he said.
Referring to research on the use of hookahs, Khan said over 50 per cent of university students in Karachi were found to consume tobacco in this form. An hour of hookah use was equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes, he warned.